A Conversation with Yota Yoshida on Self, Personal Space, and Photography


Join our intimate tête-à-tête with Japanese photographer Yota Yoshida as we explore the unspoken feelings and emotions of humanity through his unique approach to urban and street photography as seen in his series "From Somewhere, To Elsewhere"

Here's Lomography Magazine's exclusive interview with Yota Yoshida.

© Yota Yoshida

Hi Yota, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, what's the first thing you notice when you meet a person, whether a passerby or a new acquaintance?

I really appreciate you giving me this opportunity, it’s a great pleasure for me.

I have not been aware of my tastes as far as what first impressions go, but I'm interested in "what other people are watching". I like seeing the whole space where that person exists. I think it's relevant to see the whole picture; you can lead to a prediction of the event that will occur in the future. I think that is very important factor in taking photographs.

© Yota Yoshida

I see. Describe to us then how Tokyo is, more than a concrete, public jungle. What sort of place is it like to you?

About 15 years has already passed since I first living in Tokyo. Progressive and ornate, or inorganic by surrounded concrete. Such an impression would be general to this city, but I like quiet residential areas and old towns.

Moreover, I like strolling in places like parks and riparian zones. Such places are neither situated in the central nor in suburban areas.

Although they're plain, there are always glimpses of the lives of the people living in the city and it's very attractive to me. Compared to such places, I think that Shinjuku and Shibuya are more likely to occur the special things which may be suitable for Street Photography in the sense of probability theory... but that place is not suitable for my style.

© Yota Yoshida

Your photographs show to us the loneliest images seen across the urban, public space. Do you ever feel lonely, for example, standing in line along with a crowd inside the train?

When I take a photo or build to the projects, I don't focus to on the element loneliness alone, although I think a lot of people like you and others mostly felt lonely about the images.

Whether in a crowd or even in the bed at home, I think everyone asking me are unconsciously speculating.

© Yota Yoshida

Personally, it has nothing to do with loneliness.

To me, I feel something very poetic about the images when I take them. This is a complex emotion that can't be described with one word (of course, I think that loneliness is also included herein.) Also, the feeling of loneliness in the city is just the tip of the iceberg.

I think we all feel lonely, but it's not necessarily a bad thing.

I have family and friends. However, everyone has an empty place in the mind that can't be filled even if there is a dear person. I think that Humans are lonely until they die; from birth, we must recognize and confront it. Tolstoy said that a man is alone is when a man feels his truest self. So, We need stand face to face with it by positive, forward-looking attitude.

© Yota Yoshida

Your photographs are the by far the best manifestation of such a specific, yet daily happening in our lives. How would you describe the feelings that evoke from the scenes? Can you distinguish them then?

I mentioned earlier that loneliness is just one of the many important elements for me, so it's not the only thing I see.

So, I will introduce to everyone one example that might help people understand what I seeing to things at taken -- it's about the last photo of my projects that writing the message in the wet window by fingers.

© Yota Yoshida

I remember it was raining and it was very cold during that day. I sat on the last seat of the bus on my way home. A boy was sitting in front of me, he wrote something on the window very casually, just before the bus went off.

The thing he wrote on the window was probably his own name; but it was not Japanese surname, it seems like it was Chinese or Korean. I noticed that and took a single photo of it. In the next moment, he wiped away it suddenly by hand. It reminded me a lot of the song "Love Letters in the Sand", and that message has disappeared.

There was a story there, one that I didn't know, but was very curious of. Frankly, I myself don't understand it very well. The person who wrote that name was probably a minority in Japan, and I'm not 100% sure of their circumstances in the country. But this little voice was echoed strongly to me then. Therefore, if you are asked to me what are you looking, I can say that I'm seeing and feeling "such things".

Where do you draw inspiration from? Whom are your muses?

I actually have a lot.

In movies, I love the stuff directed by John Ford, Clint Eastwood, John Cassavetes, Robert Aldrich, Sam Peckinpah, Theo Angelopoulos, Yasujiro Ozu, Sadao Nakajima, Kiyoshi Kurosawa.. etc.

Speaking of genres, I actually prefer the western ones mostly, particularly film noir, but I also like Japanese 70's yakuza movies and many others, but I keep an open mind and watch anything under the sun.

© Yota Yoshida

Literature also plays a huge role in motivating me. I like works coming from literary modernism, such as the writing of James Joyce, Proust, Woolf. I admire Latin American literature as well. Jorge Luis Borges, García Marquez, and Maria Vargas Llosa, to name a few. or I often read modern American literature such as Vonnegut and Pynchon.

For photography, I'm strongly influenced by William Eggleston, Martin Parr, Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth. Other photographers that inspire me are Alexander Gronsky and Zhang Xiao.

Apart from those, music, TV dramas, theater, poetry, paintings, the humanities, sociology, etc... everything highly influences to me.

Photographs are instantaneous, but I think that various things have complicatedly influenced myself before pressing the shutter button. It's just like a butterfly effect, I don't understand well what exactly and how it works to my mind.

© Yota Yoshida

You have quite a lot of people you look up to! If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, who would it be?

This is a very difficult question for me because I don't know what sort of collaboration works for when it comes to photography.. but, I would be so happy if Joel Meyerowitz would guide me in Brooklyn for shoot the streets!

Paint to us -- what's a day in the life of Yota Yoshida?

At first, I prepared the breakfast for the family after wake up, throw the garbage bag outside, and I help daughter to change the clothes and tooth brushing etc, then after I drop her off at kindergarten before going to the office.

I don't earn a livelihood from photography; I'm a project manager of system introductions. When I finish my work for this day, I go straight back home. And then, I lull a child to sleep after having the dinner. Before going to bed, I have a nice conversation with my wife, reply to emails, and perform my photographic processes, etc.

As you see, I have not any special life. It's only different from other people when I'm with my camera. And fortunately, there are times when I receive something like awards, featured articles -- like this wonderful interview. But even if such a special thing happens, my life will not change suddenly in the next day.

Oh well, life goes on!

© Yota Yoshida

What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?

I don't really have a downtime because I'm almost always with my camera. Regarding other projects, I'm preparing for it now, but it's in the process of brush up. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the details at this time because may not publish in the end. There are various things I would like to do. If it's possible I hopefully would like to hold a solo exhibition in somewhere for this projects. Just the other day, I received an invitation from the curators, but the conditions were not compatible with my requirement, and it has not been realized.

Therefore, I hope that a good opportunity will come for it.

If you loved our interview with Yota, read our feature on the photographer too, or visit his website, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Tumblr for more of his works. Images are with permission from Yota Yoshida.

written by Ciel Hernandez on 2017-06-10 #people #tokyo #street-photography #yota-yoshida


  1. honeygrahams224
    honeygrahams224 ·

    Awesome pictures! They all have that element of loneliness to them, but the colors are always muted and feel a little serene at the same time, like they are capturing a unique experience.

  2. phillipcejudo
    phillipcejudo ·

    Well done, I have seen so many images the last few years. I the last few days I have enjoyed scrolling through hundreds of photos, maybe more.

    I have seen highly detailed, digitally animated features imitating photorealistic film making and than watched the scenes stretched out in dizzying action sequences.

    I have seen digital stills imitating still film photography while justifying the existence of film.

    I have seen some unreliable content and some sarcastic romance.

    What I enjoy about the minimal is the room it leaves for the viewer.

    Digital is great, it can imitate, stretch and reproduce the imagination in some awesome ways.

    Photography itself, digital or otherwise has the ability to show others the random, visual, treasured findings of any individual.

    Just before coming to this album I read this....

    The photograph is in no way animated . . . but it animates me. (Roland Barthes, 1982:20)

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